Friday, May 24, 2013

It Looks Just Like a Painting (2)

The things we initially respond to in a painting and a photograph are pretty similar.  Subject matter might be what most people notice first.  Next the color palette or black and white tones, then the composition or style or genre.  All these reactions are fairly immediate and hard to list in a particular order of when they occur, but one more thing we respond to fairly quickly is the artist's or photographer's techniques and level of expertise. 

I think that it's this that James was referring to in his critique of Sargent's "Lady With a Rose."  A painter's abilities with her medium develop slowly over years.  It might be harder to judge an abstract or primitive artist's expertise, but it could probably be appreciated by comparing her early works with those she makes later in a long career. 

The role of lucky accident is much greater in photography than in painting. Just like a novice could beat an old pro at backgammon because of the role of chance, so too a snapshot taken by Uncle Bob on vacation at Lake Arrowhead might hang in a show at MOMA one day.

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